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Clean Break

A Hollywood Condo's Spare Lines and Sleek Furnishings Add Up to a Calm Urban Refuge

November 30, 2003|Emily Young

Sure, Laser Rosenberg likes mid-century modern furniture. He just doesn't want to live with it. As far as he's concerned, all that black leather, chrome and glass conjure up cold, machine-like efficiency. "It might be fine for an office," he says. "But it's not what I want to come home to."

Which explains how the high-rise Hollywood condo he shares with Andre Caraco came to embody Rosenberg's idiosyncratic style, a lively eclecticism based more on custom comforts than iconic classics. Light, bright and deliberately furnished in friendly woods and fabrics, the rooms exude the calm both men crave.

"We have crazy lives, so it's nice to have a place to chill," says Rosenberg, a former production designer for commercials and music videos who now owns Homework, a design store on La Brea Avenue. Adds Caraco, a senior vice president of publicity for Sony/Columbia Pictures, "When I leave here, my senses are attacked for 10 hours straight, in traffic, at work. When I get back and shut the door, I feel safe from the daily onslaught."

Of course, it helps that the thirtysomething pair's 1,400-square-foot home is perched high above the fray, on the 11th floor of a tower on Franklin Avenue. "Being a native New Yorker, I missed apartment living," says Caraco, who used to own a house but, like Rosenberg, prefers a maintenance-free urban lifestyle.

Instead of mowing the grass, they can laze by the pool or soak up the sun on one of their two private terraces. The condo also comes with secured parking, a concierge staff and stunning views of the Hollywood sign and Griffith Observatory to the east and downtown Los Angeles to the south.

Not that their two-bedroom, two-bath unit was picture-perfect when they first saw it four years ago. Back then, it still bore vestiges of its original incarnation as a rental apartment in the '60s: "cottage cheese" and dropped-panel ceilings, a sea of peach carpet, a mirrored wet bar and depressing fluorescent lights. "It was like 'Three's Company' gone wrong," Rosenberg says.

In remodeling, Rosenberg followed his lifelong passion for modernism's clean, spare lines. But he steered clear of furniture by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, whose work seemed too austere and ubiquitous. Instead, he focused on designs in homey materials and tranquil colors. The goal was to create an inviting refuge unlike any place else in the city.

For starters, Rosenberg scrapped the old ceilings and raised the new ones to 11 feet. He added recessed and track lighting and put down a wide-plank Baltic birch floor. Then, in a stroke of chromatic genius, he painted the living room a crisp, mood-elevating grass green. "I grew up in rural Massachusetts and spent a lot of time in nature," Rosenberg says. "To me, green represents comfort and ease."

Next he selected old and new furnishings, all of them sleek but devoid of jarring pattern and ornament. The living room sofa is a vintage Scandinavian castoff rebuilt and reupholstered in moss green wool frise. The "lima bean," as Caraco calls the shapely '60s loveseat, has been restuffed with down and re-covered in cream cotton chenille. For storage and display, tables fashioned with easy-to-care-for laminate tops blend with modular bookcases made of warm maple plywood.

In the dining area, Rosenberg opted for an ebonized-maple Parsons-style table for entertaining. "The matching benches maximize seating without the visual overload of a lot of chairs," he says. In the kitchen, where he resurfaced a wall in French mosaic tile, original Thonet chairs are gathered under a George Nelson bubble lamp.

The palette is more subdued in the master bedroom, where the walls and commercial-grade carpet echo one another in shades of gray. "I don't want to be visually challenged in the bedroom. I want a peaceful, quiet place to sleep," Rosenberg says. He designed the simple platform bed and flanked it with the pleasing symmetry of relacquered '60s nightstands and Blake Simpson lamps.

Sprinkled among the recent acquisitions are many sentimental favorites. Caraco's bamboo armoire replaced the wet bar and houses audiovisual equipment, and Rosenberg's vintage slipper chair now wears gray-brown cotton chenille. Here and there, the game dice, compasses, paperweights and pottery that Rosenberg collects help to personalize the space, as do the rugs, stone sculptures and woodcarvings Caraco finds on his travels.

Using all of these elements, Rosenberg turned what could have been a cookie-cutter modernist condo into a highly individualized haven, not just for the body but for the soul. "Home is the basis of everything important to us," he says. "It's about comfort, safety, art and inspiring things."

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Resource Guide

Simplaform chair, $1,500, at Simplaform, Los Angeles, (323) 857-1256; Siegel Arts end table, $750, yellow-and-white Angela Adams pillow, $198, black-and-white Neisha Crossland pillow, $190, Blake Simpson lamp, $340, Jon Gintzler silk screen, starting at $1,200, and Yoshitomo Nara flip clock, $220, all at Homework, Los Angeles, (323) 936-6139; Yee dining table and benches, $2,385, at Ashland & Hill, Santa Monica, (310) 399-7900; Silho desk, $1,375, at Silho Furniture, Los Angeles, (323) 935-9955.

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